Category Archives for "Tutorials & Tips"
There are few topics among small business owners that lead to heated conversation more quickly than the topic of Facebook these days. I may regret opening this can of worms. Some of you may not like what I have to say when I tell you that Facebook isn’t as greedy as you think they are – Gasp! Did I say that out loud? You really may not like it when I draw the parallel between Facebook and people asking you to shoot their weddings, birthdays, and any other event in their lives for free, and that, just because Facebook is bigger than your business, doesn’t make them all THAT different, but I’m here to try to help you and that can’t be done when avoiding the tricky topics and mincing words. So here goes nothing….
Does Facebook care about making money? Well…. yeah…. kinda like you care about making money. Is that the only reason that you see your posts getting so little interaction these days? Is that the sole reason that they have limited your organic rate of viewership to 1%? No. There are a lot of factors at play. In fact, there are approximately 1.35 billion of them during any given month of this year. That’s how many users Facebook had for the month of Oct 2014 and every one of them has an opinion. Facebook execs have the difficult challenge of keeping 1.35 billion users happy else they lose them to one of the competing social networks that have launched, and are still launching, that are competing for their users. I don’t envy them. Keeping your customer base happy is a challenge, no? Could you imagine 1.35 million of them? What do the constant algorithm changes have to do with keeping users happy? Everything. Keeping users happy is the only way you have a group to market and promote to in the first place.
Is this the part where I tell you to “suck it up” and pay to promote your posts? Well…. yes and no.
There are a lot of reasons to “boost” your posts and advertise on Facebook:
1. Validity. Investing in your business shows people that you are successful enough to invest in your business.
2. Targeting. You can put your marketing message in front of relevant audiences. You may reach less people but is there really any purpose in reaching a lot of people if many of them don’t need your services, aren’t local to your area, or can’t afford you? Weeding through those “leads” is just a waste of your valuable time. No one can provide you with better targeting than Facebook can.
3. Metrics. Many business owners make the mistake of putting money into absolutely everything they can afford to in order to market, but have no way of knowing whether anything has worked.
4. Cost-Effectiveness. Especially considering that you can reach a truly targeted audience of potential customers, you would be hard pressed to find anything as cost effective as Facebook advertising. If you don’t believe it, call a local magazine, newspaper, or direct mail publisher for a quick quote or three. What you’ll find is that they have the lowest cost per 1,000 impressions in the history of advertising.
5. It’s easy. Really, it’s just easy.
Am I suggesting that you “boost” every post you make on Facebook? No. Actually, please don’t, and please don’t abandon the best practices of growing your Facebook community organically. Share content that is relevant to your fan base. Don’t just post your sample images and sneak peeks. Don’t promote your services constantly. Find articles and images that your customers are interested in. Whether you’re trying to reach parents, seniors, or brides, share things they want to see. Don’t ask them to like things (FYI, new algorithms will punish you if you do). Don’t ask them to share things. Just give them things they’ll want to. Mix up your content and think of your page as a community. When you have a promotion going on, when it’s time for specific bookings, when you launch a sale or have openings in your schedule, then boost away!
Want to be a part of our community? Join us here. Do you have feedback for us at The Shoppe about what kind of content you’d like to see on our page? Comment here on the blog. Post on our wall on Facebook. Or you can email me, your Shoppe Marketeer, at email@example.com. We look forward to bringing you more info, humor, and inspiration that you want to see!!
Stay tuned for more Facebook tips and guidelines in the future.
When we shoot digital we have the freedom to be able to focus on the composition, emotion, and exposure of an image, and decide later if it is going to look best in black and white or in color. I secretly love to edit. I love to sit and go through my images and enhance them in ways the camera is not able to do. Sometimes this can be a challenge for my indecisive self though! If there is an image that I just love, sometimes it is hard to decide if it should be black and white or leave it in color. Can you relate? So I ask myself a series of questions that helps me decide…
1. What is it about this image that you want people to notice first, what is it that you want them to remember about it?
2. Is the color part of what it is that you want them to respond to? Or is it simply the emotion that you want them to remember, or the drama, the contrast, or the moment.
3. Does the color draw my attention to things that I don’t want them to look at?
4. Is the color adding to the mood? Or is it distracting from it?
Usually asking myself those questions will help a lot with me deciding between black and white and color. If the color is not adding to the mood, if it is drawing my attention to things in the image that I don’t want the audience to focus on, if it is distracting from the emotion in an image, I will make it black and white. If the color is part of the story, if it is adding to what I want to convey, I will enhance it. Maybe the color is adding whimsy or sweetness to an image. I will use the color to help tell the story I want that image to tell.
The image below, I think it looks good in both black and white and color. I love the way the light looks on the water around her in the black and white image. For the final image, though, after asking myself the questions, I left it in color. I think in this image the color is an important part of it. Since her back is turned, there is no emotion in her face to grab you, the mood is peaceful and innocent and youthful. I feel that the color in this image really helps express that. Her bright pink hat and orange bathing suit show her colorful personality. This image also has a lot of negative space around the subject. I felt like that space was better filled with the interest of the gorgeous blue color instead of just grey space.
There is really no right or wrong answer though, this is art. If you like this image in black and white better, there is nothing wrong with that! While I absolutely love black and white, I do tend to have a hard time letting go of a the color What do you tend to lean towards?
I have a new guilty pleasure that brought me a bit of wisdom, and I am not afraid at 39 years old, with 40 right around the corner (ack), to admit that it comes in the form of a pop song written by a 20-something.
When I sit down every week to write a “tip” for our readers, know that it doesn’t come from a place of me, or of us at the Meghan Aileen Cos, being experts that have figured it all out. It comes from fellow small creative business owners fighting our way through the pitfalls of a changing marketplace right along beside you. We are in the trenches with you, making choices and tough decisions, and we are still figuring it out as we go.
We face all the same challenges as you do. The tools needed to do what we do have, cost-wise, become more accessible for the masses. Cost of doing business in e-commerce in going down and competition springs anew regularly, sometimes patterning themselves after us and targeting our customer base. They often compete on price more than quality and duplicate rather than create. Sound familiar? What do we do about it?
We do our best to follow all the advice I’ve been sharing with you for months ~ ignore the competition, be ourselves, do what we do well instead of trying to do what anyone else does, and we do what we love. We think of our customers and what their needs are and try to meet those needs just as we always have. We make ourselves accessible to our clients and followers and offer you all that we can, advice and support included! Some days, all that advice sounds WAY simpler than it seems to be. So, what do we do then?
SHAKE IT OFF! On your most challenging day, on the day that you are just plain frustrated, you can sulk. You can obsess on how unfair some things are, (because let’s face it, some things just are unfair), or you can shake it off, lest it way you down.
If you had told me a couple of years ago that I’d be offering business advice courtesy of Taylor Swift, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have believed you, but you gotta give the girl credit for being a major success, and there is always something to learn from someone who is a major success at whatever it is that they do!
Is it going to make money at the end of today for you to turn on the radio, step away from your desk, and bounce around the room to a happy tune? Maybe not, but you’ll feel better. Your creative juices will no longer be stifled. You’ll be emotionally and mentally lighter, and yes, even your customers will notice it and that DOES pay off in the long run.
Need Taylor herself to help you “Shake It Off” today? You can sing and dance along with her on my guilty pleasure song here, by the way. Go on… you know you want to. 😉
Hello! Today I am going to talk to you a bit about the importance of shooting with the environment around your subject in mind. So often many of us think the subject is the most important and don’t consider the environment they are in as just as much of a priority. And you don’t need to go to hawaii or Europe for great little vignettes! It also makes a big difference when you are shooting with product ordering in mind as well. So here are my thoughts on the importance of using your environment in composition and portraits.
I have always loved landscapes. I started painting landscapes at age 7 with Bob Ross (remember him and his afro and happy little skies?) yes I spent much time with Bob on TV trying to paint like him at a very young age. I loved the idea of creating worlds of my own. Landscapes bring mood and even life to our images. When someone looks at an environment, they picture themselves there. Why do people choose beautiful locations for vacation or celebrations? Why do they redo their kitchens and decorate their homes and work on their yards?
Because beautiful environments make us happy, we are all made to appreciate beauty and it does good things for our soul and our minds.
As image makers this is important to remember. Sometimes the beauty of an image is simply in your subject, a close up portrait of a face for example. But most of the time environment is important no matter what you are shooting. I was trained early on (by Mr Bob Ross) to look for vignettes, little environments everywhere I go, to compose them in my mind even when I am not shooting.
I look around and first try to picture the landscape on it’s own, I compose it in my mind without the subject, then I add them in. This way I am making sure that the landscape is considered just as important as the subject. It allows me to make sure it remains a priority in the shot. This does not mean you don’t consider your subject when looking around for the perfect landscape. If my subject is in green, I probably don’t want to place them on a green truck for example, they will of course not stand out much, especially since the shot will be wider, making my subject a bit smaller in the composition. So be sure to keep this in mind.
Especially with a wider lens shot, I try to compose the shot in a way that will move your eye around the image. Not only is this just good compositional practice, but when you want your environment to play a part in the impact of the image, it shows your viewer that it is just as important. It also tells their eye to move around the image taking in the whole environment and not just the subject. Sometimes this means putting your subject off center, and sometimes it is right in the center, it depends on what else is in the image. Some people think that the subject always has to stand out the most. I disagree. I like to break the rules a little and I think that sometimes, there can be things in the shot that command a lot of attention as well. Like the truck below, I like that it stands out a lot, and then you see the little girl on it just after first glance. Sometimes it is ok to not have the person in the shot be the first thing you see. There are many different ways to photograph people. The traditional portrait is not the only way! Experiment with what works for you! but don’t be afraid to break the rules a bit.
When it comes to shooting, I tend to grab for my 35mm f1.4 most because I love that I can get a lot of the surroundings in my shot. It is not so wide that the subject gets lost, but just wide enough to give a real sense of the world around my subject. However I also love my 135mm f2 because I like the way it can make my environment look painterly with bokeh. As long as I can get far enough away from my subject to shoot with my long lens and still get some of the environment in the shot.
Above is an example of the different effects your lens has on your environment. Notice how the wide shot includes the tall trees behind the truck. When I drove up to this client’s house I immediately noticed how that truck and those trees looked amazing together. I composed that shot in my head first and then thought where could I put a 2 year old and still get those tall trees in. I had to use my 24mm 1.4 for it, but it does work. She is in white so she still stands out on the dark truck even though she is small. A shot like this is perfect for a large canvas print. I will talk more in the next post about shooting for product and prints for your clients. But in general, if you want them to order big, you need to give them some shots that will look great large!
A shot with a wide lens is perfect for a large canvas print!
The shot next to it with my 135mm is very different. Shot 10 feet away from that truck, in this shot I was noticing the painterly light behind her and the dappled leaves. I knew with my long lens it would blur that enough to make the child stand out but still have gorgeousness around her!
I don’t think I have to tell you how important is to have goals in your professional photography business. Your goals point you in a direction and guide you on how to get there. They help you determine how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. From daily checklists to annual planning, as business owners, goal setting is constant and you’ll never achieve your goals if you aren’t stubborn about it. Are you flexible in your approach though? Did you know that you need to…..
What does it mean to be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your approach? It means that you can’t let anything stop you. Once you set goals for yourself and for your business, get stubborn like a mule! Whether your plan is to finally make the leap to full time professional photographer, to expand into a studio outside the home, to hire an assistant or to double your current income, no matter what that may be, don’t stop until you make it happen. Don’t let someone else’s doubts hinder you. Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones and don’t change what you set out to achieve. That said, be flexible in your approach to reaching those goals.
No matter level you are at in your career as a pro photographer, you’re still learning. You’re still growing, and you’re still changing, As you learn new things you should implement them, as you generate more income it will allow you to re-invest in your business, as the industry and your market changes, your business will need to change. If something you’ve tried in marketing that used to work for you isn’t anymore, then try something new. If your clients are seeking different packages and different styles of sessions, you may need to reconsider your offerings. If you really only want to shoot newborns but have the opportunity to shoot maternity and family as this point in your career, then consider taking those sessions that aren’t necessarily what you plan to focus in when you are able to operate dream studio then use that additional revenue to better yourself and your equipment.
Change is hard. Being flexible when you have a picture of your perfect business model in your head is a challenge, but being flexible in your approach doesn’t mean giving up on your goals. It’s a like a road map. There may be a dozen different ways to get from point A to point B, and some of those roads may be flooded or full of potholes, so you’ll need to choose others, but if you keep choosing roads that get you to your destination, you WILL still get there. You may even end up taking a more beautiful drive. 😉
Hey Photographers! Do you know how LUCKY you are? Well, of course you know how lucky you are to get to do something you love for a living! And you’re lucky to get to be a part of people’s special moments and to be the person who captures them, but that’s not only reason you’re lucky! What on earth am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that you are so lucky that every person you meet could be a client or could help you find clients! Most business owners have to sit down and put together to list of potential clients and then put together a plan to try reach them! I’ve sold all sorts of schtuff in my life and finding access to people who could use the products or services I have to sell has always been one of the biggest challenges in the process so I know how LUCKY you are as photographers! People who need your services are, well, EVERYWHERE!! The question is… how do you take advantage of that? There are a lot of answers, I’m sure, but one is simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple and it may not occur to you!!
The simplest answer is TALK ABOUT YOU! I say it may not be easy because I am the first person to understand how hard it can be to talk about yourself. For many small business owners, and probably even more typically creative business owners, it can be difficult to get comfortable talking about yourself. You don’t want to seem “sales-y”. You don’t want your friends, family, and people you’re just meeting to think you want them to spend their money with you. The fact is, though, that they’re spending it somewhere so why NOT with you? What better place than with someone who has a personal investment in their love of the final product?
Need some advice on HOW to start talking yourself? Start simple. When you meet someone new and they say, “What do you do?”, do you find yourself answering with “I’m a photographer” and ONLY with “I’m a photographer”? Did you know that most people outside your industry don’t even know that photographers specialize? They may not be aware of what newborn photographers do. If their children are still young, they may have no clue that there are talented portrait photographers working specifically with seniors. They may think of hiring a wedding photographer for their big day, but may not know that they could also hire the same one for beautiful engagement photos and save the dates and maybe even for some lovely boudoir shots for their fella as a wedding gift. You know that all photographers are not the same. The person you’re just having a conversation with quite likely does not. Start telling them… “I am a professional photographer specializing in….”. You may be surprised at how often they will ask you to know more. Ready to take a step further? Tell people even more. “I am a professional children’s photographer and right now, I’m shooting a lot holiday mini sessions. I take those photos you see on adorable Christmas cards every year!”. How about “I’m a professional senior photographer so I work with graduates and right now I’m swamped because it’s announcement ordering time!” or because it’s album design and ordering season! Let people know that you are selling cards, that you are designing albums. Mention it when you’re booking minis. Let them know what season it is, that it’s time to book for holidays, graduations and more! Tell them more about what you have to offer right off the bat!
Let’s face it, you know that you don’t “just click a button all day”. You’re not just a photographer and all photographers are not the same, so why oh why would you only say “I’m a photographer” when someone asks you what you do? You’re LUCKY! Any ol’ person you meet might mean business to you one day so TELL them about it!!
Have you ever written out your to do list over a fresh cup of java in the morning, looked down at the finished list, and become completely overwhelmed? Well, this happens to me – All. The. Time! At least it used to! With two businesses to manage instead of one now, (check out our amazing marketplace just for photographers here), Meghan Aileen and I keep our hands full! Well, really we keep our hands, our heads, our hearts, and our lives full!! To help with that, recently, I’ve returned to an old trick I learned years ago and am working hard it making it a habit again.
One of the best, and quite honestly simplest tricks I’ve ever learned in managing time and priorities involves to do list writing. Everyone tells you to make sure you write one. Most people tell you to make sure you prioritize it, and really good advice givers even tell you to make notes on it, noting which items need to be done at certain times of the day, which have deadlines, which need input from others, and which ones you need to get out of the way quickly because you hate them so will make you most likely to procrastinate. All good advice, but the best advice is simply: do NOT write that to do list first thing in the morning! What?! How does that work?? Simple, you write your to do list for tomorrow at the END of the day TODAY! It’s not always what you want to do when you are trying to wrap up and get out the door for the evening, but it pays off. Jot down all the things you need to do tomorrow, prioritize them (I use highlighters on long lists), and make those notes I mentioned. Then, put it aside and call it a day. Tomorrow, your day is ready to get started. You can start knocking out the first item on the list over that fresh cup of java instead of getting overwhelmed as you think about all the things you need to get done. Will you always get every item checked off? Ha. Not likely! More often than not, there will still be items on the list at the end of the day. Do you know what you do with them? You use them to start tomorrow’s list at the end of today.
Go on! Give a try! Feel free to pop back by here and tell me how it works for you. And… make sure that each Tuesday night, you put “read the weekly tip from The Shoppe Marketeer” on Wednesday’s to do list. *wink wink*
Some weeks I sit down at the keyboard to give some little tidbit of business advice for photographers and my fingers hit the keys with the greatest of ease. Other weeks, in fact most weeks, I have some fuzzy idea of what I want to say, of what I think is good advice, and no clear way of how or why to say it. I do what any writer, much like any kind of artist, does. I seek inspiration. Today, I’ve had an interesting experience with that.
We’re having a really exciting week at The Shoppe! We’re “re-launching” our newly designed blog, newsletter, and eventually website, after what seems like an eternity of work and planning, and we’ve been looking forward to sharing our little facelift (and more) with you! I knew I wanted to write a tip that helped to share with you why we’ve made the changes that we have. The “fuzzy idea” came to me quickly. The words “do what you love” came to mind. I mulled them over for a few days and they stuck with me. It’s common advice right? We hear it all the time. So, I had to find some new and interesting way to put out the same advice that others have been talking about for years, so I sought inspiration. I opened my laptop, I typed www.google.com into the address bar and then typed “business advice do what you love” in the magic search little search box in the middle of the screen. Do you know what happened? There were pages and pages of results. That I expected. What I didn’t expect were the number of articles and blogs that popped up on my screen that said it was *gasp* TERRIBLE business advice! That was discouraging. Disheartening. Honestly… sad. So many of those blog posts calling it terrible advice were from young people! How is it that they have come to believe that doing what you love is not a realistic goal? :-/
Maybe it’s not the wisest thing to do for me to sit here and try to tell you it’s great advice despite so many opinions to the contrary. Then again, maybe it’s stubborn, or just gutsy. 😉
Look, the fact is that not everyone is an entrepreneur. Starting and growing your own business is risky. There is no job security, there are tons of challenges, and statistically most small businesses fail. Maybe “do what you love” is terrible advice for a young person who is just graduating from college, who has no savings or support and has a ton of student loans to pay off. Maybe it’s not the right advice for everyone, but as professional photographers, as creatives, we are not just everyone. If you are rising to the challenge of owning your own business and being your own boss, then absolutely…. you need to DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND LOVE WHAT YOU DO! Steve Jobs said it himself, “The only way to do GREAT work is to love what you do”. As a small business owner, the responsibilities are yours. So are the risks. The long hours. The expenses. You get the picture. At the beginning and end of every day, you will be more dedicated and happier despite all of those things if you are loving what you do! What does that mean to you as a photographer? It means SHOOT what you love! Don’t shoot weddings if you are happier squeezing precious babies all day! Don’t let someone convince there is more money to be earned in family portraiture if you really want to work with teens and seniors! Shoot what makes you happy and create what you love to create and you will create it better, gain more clients and be more successful!
Oh, and just in case you’ve ever wondered if The Shoppe team follows our own advice, what you’ll see this week is that we do! Take a look at our newsletter. Browse around the blog. You’ll see a whole new look. You’ll sense a whole new feel. You’ll be watching us move in a whole new direction and the reason? The Shoppe is taking it’s own advice. You will see us DOING WHAT WE LOVE!